A burqa-clad Afghan woman walks past a sunlit wall in Herat province on May 10, 2014. Afghanistan remains at war, with civilians among the hardest hit as the Taliban wage an increasingly bloody insurgency against the government.
A burqa-clad Afghan woman walks past a sunlit wall in Herat province on May 10, 2014. Afghanistan remains at war, with civilians among the hardest hit as the Taliban wage an increasingly bloody insurgency against the government. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

Afghanistan has been called the “graveyard of empires.”

It’s a phrase you hear a lot when people talk about our more than a decade of involvement in Afghanistan. And Anand Gopal thinks it’s a bad one.

“There is a sense that whatever happened in Afghanistan was inevitable,” says Gopal, author of the new book "No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes". But we had many opportunities to get this right.”

Gopal learned the Afghan language Pashto, and traveled the country by motorcycle to research his book. He says that the U.S. made a mistake in funding Afghan warlords to help fight the Taliban.

“A lot of these militia commanders and warlords are not that much better than the Taliban they replaced... That’s creating support for the insurgency and draining resources. Without us paying them, these guys are not going to continue  fighting.”

The Afghan economy relies almost entirely on the opium trade and foreign aid. But Gopal says all the U.S. money flowing into the country doesn’t guarantee the government’s survival.

“If you take billions upon billions of dollars and put it into a country that has very little capacity to absorb it, you create corruption on an unforeseen scale. If you talk to Afghans today they’ll say that the last 10 years have been more corrupt than anything they’ve seen in the previous 20 or 30 years of fighting.”

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal